Thoughts regarding sports and mentoring.
Caution: Severe Tennessee Titan, Memphis Grizzlies, Chicago Cubs, and Scott Stallings bias.

The Taunting Two-Step

December 2nd, 2015 | Comments Off on The Taunting Two-Step

When is a touchdown dance more than a dance? Cam Newton is only the latest example in the age-old dance of celebration vs. taunting.

SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 18: Quarterback Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on October 18, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 570176333 ORIG FILE ID: 493267298

The Carolina Panthers are the last undefeated team still dancing and Cam Newton, the front runner for NFL MVP, is a big reason why. Over the last week Newton became the subject of scrutiny after a Music City mother sent a letter that the Charlotte Observer opportunistically published scolding Newton’s Elvis-esque gyrations.

Then came the response.

A response to the response.

And finally a response to the response of the response.

If you are trying to remember the steps to this media montage – it’s racism, the objectification of women, and celebratory limits of franchise players, cha, cha, cha.

The steps for settling the dance between celebrating and taunting are much simpler.

In hopes of creating clarity and not stifling the moves of our favorite sporting entertainers, here are some quick pointers for players and fans.

Celebrating…

… is brief during play.
… directed at teammates or your fans.
… is proportional to the value of the moment.
… is from the pure emotion of joy and satisfaction.
… is rarely misinterpreted by opposing players or penalized by the officials.

Taunting…

… is excessive in length during play.
… is directed at opponent or their fans.
… is disproportionate to the value of the moment.
… is from the raw emotion of arrogance and anger.
… is often interpreted by opposing players as disrespectful or penalized by officials.

This is hardly comprehensive or complete, but it could help in spotting some of the differences on any field of play in which you are watching or playing.

In the case of Cam Newton, dancing is no problem… unless an opposing player takes offense. Then attempt to defuse the situation, or just avoid directing an emphatic pelvic thrust in his direction.

Hit the Quan or even Whip / Nae Nae.

Just remember your mother, my mother, and apparently everyone else’ mother is watching – so when in doubt, make it about giving away footballs to kids and not all this other nonsense. That’s the most entertaining and rewarding celebration.

The Lead Block challenges players and fans to honor their opponents, on and off the court. To find out more about how you can become a part, click HERE.

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Aaron

July 30th, 2015 | Comments Off on Aaron

I will always remember the first time I met Aaron.

Aaron Catholic

It was the second week of an already promising season. And although his team was off to a rough start at 0-1 with another difficult opponent looming, they were still the prohibitive favorites to win another state title.

Winning is something that comes easy to Aaron, his charisma and intelligence are matched only by his ability to turn seemingly impossible plays into effortless displays of athleticism on the field.

Today was different. Today Aaron was going to lose.

Milling about practices is a regular activity as a mentor with The Lead Block, supporting a current player or discovering a student in search of their destiny.

Looking

Murmurs from the players and coaches are what I noticed first, then the reason came into view. A school administrator, still adorned in suit and tie, walked purposefully and solemnly towards the head coach.

The whispered gossip was enough to piece together that Aaron was in trouble.

After a quick exchange between administrator and coach, Aaron was motioned to join the impromptu meeting. A simple September practice faded to silence.

With a labored nod, Aaron turned and trotted towards the locker room.

His season was over.

The entire team had just witnessed Aaron’s expulsion from school.

A few weeks later, Aaron and I met briefly for lunch to discuss his future. And he agreed that mentoring was something he would be interested in trying out.

34 mentoring appointments, 8 tutoring sessions, a raised ACT score, and college scholarship offer later, Aaron changed his destiny.

Aaron told me over lunch today (the day I wrote this post) that he did not know what to think of a complete stranger calling him up, offering to meet for lunch, and talk about his future. He was not looking for a mentor.

But, we were looking for him.

BenDariusKevin

Partner with us (CLICK HERE) so The Lead Block can find 5 more Aarons on fields, courts, and in classrooms all over Knoxville.

By the way, Aaron did end up returning to play his senior year and led his team to what would ultimately be the first of three consecutive state titles.  That May, he graduated high school on-time and is currently working towards finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from the University of Tennessee.

Aaron plans to start his own business later this year, purchasing homes in Knoxville, fixing them up, and renting them out to families that need affordable housing.

“Those breakfast talks are the best foundation I could have right now.” – Aaron

Remember, it is Aaron that deserves all the credit.  Because at The Lead Block, we will always be about the players scoring their destiny.

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Best Red – No Love Lost

April 28th, 2015 | Comments Off on Best Red – No Love Lost

Short takes on relevant sports and character issues.

scuffleThe NBA playoffs are here and not disappointing, delivering highlights and some of the best basketball from most of the best teams. Unfortunately, in two of the more lopsided playoff series, physicality is getting out of hand.

 

1. No Love Lost

love
Thankfully the the Dallas Mavericks vs. Houston Rockets series only experienced small, chippy moments from its Game 4 – Boston vs. Cleveland, on the other hand, was completely out of control. One ejection, two technical fouls, two unnecessary and unwarranted injuries, and three games lost to suspension.

NBA officials on and off the court are not to blame. The lowered standards of coaches and players are the real culprit. When respect for each other and the game take a backseat to “competitiveness,” “pride,” and other sports lingo masking players and coaches’ poor sportsmanship in losing efforts, the results are as ridiculous as burning down a CVS.

 

2. Riot Mom

riot mom
The tragic story of Freddie Gray and the subsequent Baltimore riots created an unexpected and interesting twist on Monday, when a mother of a young, masked rioter publicly reprimanded her son in front of the entire nation.

Mentors, coaches, teachers, and community leaders can never take the place of an involved parent.  If you are a contributing member of society, call your mother or father today and thank them. If you are not, you better hope your mother does not find out and humiliate you on national television.

 

3. Respect and Authority

Suspect Dies Baltimore
The increasing public displays of disrespect for officials in sports is a prophetic warning for a culture moving in the same direction. Consider how the world’s diminishing respect for authority will culminate in more and larger displays of violence like Ferguson to Baltimore.

It starts with a parent at the ballpark screaming obscenities at a little league umpire or dressing down a teacher for grading too harshly at a parent-teacher conference.

It continues with professional athletes using homophobic slurs towards the commissioner of their league and a congressmen shouting disrespectfully at the office of the President of the United States.

We can choose respect for each other and the authorities placed over us – especially when they make mistakes. Only then will we be in any position to affect change over the true injustices that are happening all around us.

 

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Hopeless

October 29th, 2014 | Comments Off on Hopeless

The Department of Education estimates that 1.2 million students are homeless.

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 4.30.40 PM

Let that sink in.

This is the highest figure in the history of the United States.  Of those 1.2 million, Sports Illustrated extrapolates that 100,000 of those students are student athletes.

 

“By age 12, 83% of homeless students have been exposed to at least one serious violent event”

“A 2011 study of homeless youth in Salt Lake City found that 84% had experienced physical and/or sexual abuse as minors”

“Homeless children go hungry twice as often as other children and are five times more likely suffer gastrointestinal problems”

“Only 51% of homeless high school students tested nationwide met or exceeded state proficiency standards in math [and only] 49% met or exceeded proficiency in reading [in 2012-13]”  ::Sports Illustrated, 2014::

 

If that does not motivate you to do something, stop reading.

High school and college athletics are a genuine passion of mine, but they are just games. For The Lead Block, it is really about the student athletes.

Mentoring, challenging, and paving the way for the homeless, hopeless, under performing, abused and hungry student athletes to leverage their gifts on and off the field to create a future they will want to live in.

We work with players whose fathers, uncles, and brothers are serving terms in prison. Players whose breakfast mentoring appointments will provide the only breakfast the player will eat all week. Players who, only until recently, had no aspirations of attending college.

We are making a difference.

One player at a time.

We are looking to add 5 more players in January of 2015.  And we are asking for you to join us and sponsor a player today.

 

Call (865-896-9666) or email (Drew@TheLeadBlock.com) us today and make a difference in the life of a student.

:: Sponsors receive monthly player updates, a Lead Block Nike Dri-fit shirt, and a chance for 2 sideline passes to the TSSAA Football State Championships ::

 

 

 

 

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Hope of Hernandez

July 2nd, 2013 | Comments Off on Hope of Hernandez

Fatherlessness in America claims a new victim. Sadly, Aaron Hernandez’s tragic story is not unique or even unexpected. Where did it all go wrong?

Screen Shot 2013-07-02 at 12.41.28 PM

Fatherlessness is responsible for…

63% of youth suicides (5 times the average)
71% of high school dropouts (9 times the average)
75% of adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers (10 times the average)
80%
of rapists with anger problems (14 times the average)
85%
of youths in prison (20 times the average)

(courtesy of Sabrina and TheFatherlessGeneration.com)

Unlike the statistics listed above, Aaron Hernandez grew up in a home with both of his parents, Dennis and Terri Hernandez. In high school, Aaron displayed his immense talents garnering national attention as a top tight end prospect.

And as late as 2006, he was still planning to attend the University of Connecticut, following in the footsteps of his father. Then, everything changed.

During a hernia operation, Dennis Hernandez suddenly and unexpectedly died as a result of complications from the surgery. Aaron was just 16. Terri Hernandez said,

“He would rebel. It was very, very hard, and he was very, very angry. He wasn’t the same kid, the way he spoke to me. The shock of losing his dad, there was so much anger.” (courtesy of USA Today Sports 2009)

:: It is important to note at this point, that I personally believe Aaron Hernandez deserves his day in court, the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and that if he is found responsible for murder, that he should be held accountable. ::

Fatherlessness can alter the destiny of a child.

Aaron enrolled in the University of Florida in 2007, fleeing Connecticut and his troubles in hopes of finding himself or perhaps a fresh start. Instead, he found more trouble, including a juvenile arrest and several failed drug tests.

In 2009, then Florida coach Urban Meyer seemed to affect change in Aaron’s life. Meyer’s limited mentoring uncovered a clear understanding of the fundamental absence from the talented tight ends’ life.

“When your guy, your idol, your soul is taken from you, how do you deal with that? I just think there’s a part of his life that was not there. He needed discipline; he needed someone to talk to.” (courtesy of USA Today Sports 2009)

Unfortunately, mentoring is something that most coaches are not equipped to handle, nor are they hired or expected to maintain after players graduate.

Now 5 years removed from his time with Meyer, the 23 year old Hernandez is quickly sinking to the unreachable and murky depths of the fatherlessness life.

Becoming just another father that will not be around to watch over and protect his 7 month old daughter.

Fatherlessness does have one weakness.

Other adults showing up, offering the disciplines of life and someone who will listen.

Be a part of preventing fatherlessness.

Mentor a young man or woman today. They can be a neighbor, a teammate or classmate of one of your children, a child of a single-parent coworker, or any number of children that are a part of organizations like Boys & Girls Club of America, Big Brothers Big Sisters, or the Mentoring Project.

The Lead Block has been showing up for players and coaches since 2011. To find out more about how you can become a part, click HERE.

 

 

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Hustle – 10 Year Anniversary

May 7th, 2012 | Comments Off on Hustle – 10 Year Anniversary

In honor of the Allen Iverson rant 10 year anniversary…

Odds are someone, somewhere is working on becoming a better free-throw shooter, blocker, writer, painter, barber, teacher, analyst, husband, or mother.

Right this very instant.

And although some of these professions and callings do not have scheduled off-seasons, life provides down times that many will use to sharpen their skills.

But, how will we use those down times?

Whether it is the off-season, spring break, a night we cannot sleep, a Saturday afternoon, a long flight home, or all summer, those down times are all around us.

Weight rooms, books, blogs, conferences, and workshops are as abundant as they are affordable. Agreed, some are better than others, but using our down time to level the playing field through information and technology has never been easier.

So, where is the new frontier of competitive advantage?

This last season with The Lead Block, I interviewed dozens of coaches, players, and entrepreneurs from all over the country and many shared how hard work, grinding, giving yourself a chance through effort was the difference for them or their team.

Not a new driver.

Not a new prototype.

Not even a new method.

Just hustle.

Much to the chagrin of Allen Iverson, the punchline to the old adage of how to get to Carnegie Hall is as true today as it was the first time it was told.

Practice, practice, practice. Or in other words…

Hustle, hustle, hustle.

 

The Lead Block challenges players and coaches to use hustle to their advantage, on and off the field. To find out more about how you can become a part, click HERE.

 

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Weekly Block – For Starters

March 21st, 2012 | Comments Off on Weekly Block – For Starters

The Weekly Block covers what matters in sports to me. And maybe you too.

1. Scott Stallings (8:45am Tee Time on Thursday – Arnold Palmer Invitational)

Stallings missed the cut last Friday at the tournament that started it all (Transitions) last year. But, he did finish each round and looks to be on the road to recovery.

2. Memphis Grizzlies (25-19) (2nd in WC Southwest)

In a surprising and potentially exciting free agency move, the Grizzlies signed talented and troubled scoring guard Gilbert Arenas to back up Mike Conley.

3. Nashville Predators (42-23-7, 92 pts) (2nd in WC-Central)

Copy and paste the Grizz move for the Predators, who are looking to give a fresh start to Alex Radulov, who walked away from Nashville in 2008 for the KHL.

4. Tennessee Titans (Late Start)

The Manning Sweepstakes cost the Titans shots at Mario Williams, John Abraham, and an opportunity to resign Jason Jones. Still, a late start is better than no start.

5. Chicago Cubs (Rough Start)

The Cubs preseason is off to a rough start. The pitching rotation and top of the batting order are both unsettled and in a state of flux. Looks like a rebuild year.

 

The Lead Block added a new player this week and is looking for new mentor sponsors to join. To find out more and how you can become a part, click HERE.

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Weekly Block – Don’t Call it a Comeback

March 11th, 2012 | Comments Off on Weekly Block – Don’t Call it a Comeback

The Weekly Block covers what matters in sports to me. And maybe you too.

1. Scott Stallings

Finally some good news for Stallings’ 2012 season.

Also, be sure to check out the new look on Scott’s website (click on his name).

2. Memphis Grizzlies (23-16) (2nd in WC Southwest)

It is hard to find a team in the NBA with a better comeback resume than the Grizzlies in 2012. Still, the Nuggets, Clippers, Rockets, and the Lakers (twice) await in March.

3. Nashville Predators (40-21-7, 87 pts) (3rd in WC-Central)

It is likely that few of the Predators’ trade deadline acquisitions will come back after this season. Regardless, Nashville is equipped for another deep playoff run into April.

4. Webb School Spartans (Boys Basketball) (19-15)

The Spartans come back fell short of the state semi-finals, falling 39-37 to Donelson Christian Academy. Knoxville News-Sentinel and PrepXtra writer Jesse Smithey believes next year’s team could be even better. And he is not the only one.

Congratulations are in order for the Lady Spartans, who captured their 3rd State Championship in school history, with guard Molly Melton claiming tournament MVP.

5. Oak Ridge Wildcats (Boys Basketball) (23-6)

West High School shocked the Wildcats with a late come back in the opening round, ousting the Wildcats, and ending their championship hopes before they ever started.

 

To find out more about The Lead Block and how you can become a part, click HERE.

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Weekly Block – Prep Work

January 23rd, 2012 | Comments Off on Weekly Block – Prep Work

The Weekly Block covers what matters in sports to me. And maybe you too.

1. Memphis Grizzlies (9-6) (1st in WC Southwest)

The Grizz sit atop the Spurs, Mavericks, and Rockets heading into this week. And while there is plenty of work to be done, this streak was without Zach Randolph.

2. Nashville Predators (28-16-4, 60pts) (4th in WC-Central)

The Predators seem prepared to make another deep postseason push this year, winning 7 of their last 8 and 10 of the last 12. Still, they have some work to do.

3. Scott Stallings (Withdrew from Humana Challenge)

Stallings suffered an early setback to 2012, when an intercostal muscle injury forced him to withdraw on Saturday. Fortunately, he spent the offseason preparing for this.

4. Webb School Spartans (Boys Basketball) (14-5)

Not even steady rain could chase away Webb students, parents and faculty from a cookout on Friday. The varsity squad will finally get some well earned home games.

5. Oak Ridge Wildcats (Boys Basketball) (17-3)

Despite a disappointing loss to Karns, the Wildcats are poised to be a favorite in the state tournament. But, execution and hustle will dictate how high this team will fly.

 

This year, the Weekly Block will add highlights of character and updates from partner schools of The Lead Block. Find out how you can become a part HERE.

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Just Admit It

January 9th, 2012 | 1 comment

Our response to Tim Tebow’s season reveals the character of us all.

We have all been wrong.

I thought The Matrix was going to be a bad movie.

I thought the iPhone was too expensive for a phone.

I thought shrimp was a slimy and undesirable appetizer.

And I thought all of Tim Tebow’s critics had an axe to grind.

I was wrong.

His critics (who include former NFL quarterbacks, scouts, and current general managers) have legitimate concerns about his potential and future in the NFL.

Tim Tebow is not an elite NFL passer-sometimes missing open receivers, sometimes too slowly looking over his progressions, or occasionally winding up a little too long to throw downfield. He is not the next Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, or Drew Brees.

I admit it.

For comparison, here are two quarterbacks’ regular season statistics:

courtesy of www.pro-football-reference.com

Each young passer led their team to the playoffs. Each quarterback was supported by a solid defense. Each quarterback did more damage on the ground than in the air.

The 24-year old quarterback is Tim Tebow, this year.

The 26-year old is former NFL MVP Steve McNair, who led his 1999 Titan team to a Super Bowl appearance with the help of a far more miraculous game-winning play.

Both won their first playoff games in an unconventional way.

So, in the face of one of the more memorable Denver playoff victories against a favored Pittsburgh team, how will those same critics respond the day after?

NFL gurus and fans alike that doubted or touted Tebow have to admit it. Even if this is his only season as the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos, it is a season worth remembering. A humbling contrition that both sides can admit after Sunday.

Faced with the same criticism and fandemonium, Tim chose humility. Why can’t we?

Humility is a difficult, but powerful, demonstration of character.

For this reason, The Lead Block challenges its players to play with humility on the field and live in humility off it. To find out how to become a part and click ABOUT.

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